Advice & assistance
Preventing stormwater pollution
What may seem an insignificant act on its own, cumulatively may have a large impact on our rivers, creeks, oceans and groundwater when many people are doing the same or similar activities. We all have an impact and we can all take steps to improve the water quality of our stormwater and receiving waters receiving this stormwater.
The guiding principles of stormwater pollution prevention are governed by the waste management hierarchy where the avoidance of pollution is most preferable and the least preferable is to treat and then dispose of stormwater. Key to avoidance is to also reduce the amount of stormwater that is generated or produced.
Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) promotes the sustainable use of water in the urban environment. WSUD integrates the total water cycle into urban development and integrates water from all sources including stormwater. Use of WSUD principles and techniques will assist in minimising pollution and reducing flows.
Tips and on preventing stormwater pollution:
In your home you can take a number of actions to reduce the pollutants and volume of stormwater that leave the property. Remember the cumulative effects of everyone’s actions have significant impacts on our waterways and oceans and we can all play a part in minimising stormwater pollution. A range of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) measures may be considered on the household scale that will reduce the amount of stormwater leaving your property.
The Water Quality Policy specifies that a number of pollutants cannot be discharged to the stormwater system. By law you are obliged to ensure these pollutants do not reach the stormwater system from your property. Many of these apply to everyday activities undertaken around the home:
- Cleaning agents, detergents and their byproducts, steam cleaning waste
- Washdown water from cleaning vehicles or equipment, engine coolant, motor vehicle servicing or repairs waste, oil, grease or lubricants
- High-pressure water blasting waste, roof cleaning waste
- Paint and paint scrapings, painting washwater, paint stripping waste, stain or varnish, plaster, plaster waste and plaster waste water
- Soil, clay, gravel or sand
- Pool backwash water and pool chemicals
- Rubbish, hard waste and putrescible waste (eg food scraps, dead animals)
- Animal faeces and washdown water from cleaning animals or animal enclosures
- Green waste (eg lawn clippings, leaves, prunings).
Garden waste such as lawn, plant clippings and leaves must not enter the stormwater system.
Under no circumstances should garden waste be swept, blown or hosed into the street gutters. Instead rake or sweep garden waste, use it as mulch, compost it or place it in your green organics bin.
Pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers must not be used near any stormwater drains.
This is a particularly important around driveways and pathways that may flow into the stormwater drain. Excess use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers will run off into the stormwater system. Even those labelled ‘non-toxic must not go to the stormwater system.
Use these chemicals sparingly and avoid using during periods of rain or when rain is forecast in the next 24 hours. Do not spray under windy conditions; the wind may transport the spray to the stormwater system.
How to use pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers wisely:
- Guidelines for responsible pesticide use
- Safe and effective pesticide use: a handbook for lifestyle landholders
- Safe and effective pesticide use: a handbook for commercial spray operators
- Safe and effective herbicide use: a handbook for near-water applications
- Leave existing trees and vegetation where possible.
- Plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of rain.
- Cover exposed soil with groundcover or mulch to prevent soil being washed or blown away.
- Select plants that have don't need much water, fertilisers and pesticides.
- Compost your lawn clippings and garden waste or place it in the green bin.
- Use borders to contain soil, compost and mulch (and any fertilisers or pesticides).
- Plant vegetated strips along the edges of the driveway to collect and filter stormwater.
- Adopt water sensitive urban design measures.
High-pressure water and roof cleaning waste must not go to the stormwater system.
- Remember do not hose down the driveway or any paths into the gutter. Sweep instead.
- If using a high-pressure cleaner, ensure that all waste water is directed to a soakage area such as the garden or lawn.
- If cleaning roofs ensure the downpipes are disconnected. All waste water from cleaning should be collected and disposed through a licensed waste contractor or directed to a suitably managed onsite soakage area.
- Do not undertake these activities on windy days when spray drift may carry pollutants into the stormwater system.
- Regularly clear gutters and outside household drains of leaves and other organic matter.
- Help minimise the amount of litter, sediment and organic matter by regularly sweeping the footpath and street gutter outside your house.
- Compost any organic material (dirt, grass cuttings, leaves, etc) or place it in the garden or green waste bin for collection.
Vehicle cleaning and maintenance
Waste water and detergents from washing of cars, boats and trailers must not go to the stormwater system.
- These activities must not be undertaken in the street or on driveways where waste water and detergents will flow into the stormwater system.
- Divert all of the wash water to the garden or other soakage area. Ideally it is easier to wash the car or boat on grassy areas where the water and detergents soak into the ground. Minimise water use and ensure there is no runoff from the garden, grassy or soakage area.
- Use a microfibre cloth to clean the car with minimal water and no detergents. If using such cloths, all the waste water must still go into a garden or soakage area.
- Alternatively wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash where the water is recycled.
Waste, oil, grease, lubricants or engine coolant must not go to the stormwater system.
- Ensure your vehicle is maintained and serviced regularly to minimise the potential for leaking oils or other fluids such as coolants. It is preferable to have your car serviced at a repairer who has proper facilities to manage waste.
If servicing a vehicle at home this must be done under cover and ensure the area is appropriately bunded to capture all spills and have a spill kit available. Link to bunding guideline
- Spills must be captured with an appropriate absorbent material and disposed of through the waste system, (e.g. kitty litter or other oil absorbent material). Do not use water to clean up any spills and wash your hands over a sink that is connected to the sewer.
- All wastes such as oil, coolants and batteries must be disposed to a facility licensed to receive that waste or the household hazardous waste depot.
Animal faeces and washdown water from cleaning animals or animal enclosures must not go to the stormwater system.
- Collect animal faeces (eg dogs, cats, rabbits, birds) regularly and dispose of in a sealed bag in your general waste. While walking dogs or pets, collect all faeces and carry home for disposal. Under no circumstances should dog faeces be washed from footpaths or driveways into the stormwater drain. Note: Many councils will accept pet waste in the green organics bin. See Zero Waste Pet waste fact sheet.
- If washing pets outside, do not allow waste water including cleaning agents, to enter the stormwater system. Preferably wash pets where waste water can soak into the ground or garden. Similarly all waste water from cleaning animal enclosures should be directed to a suitably managed soakage area. Avoid using cleaning solutions with flea rinse. Such solutions are considered pesticides, and should be used sparingly so they do not run off into the stormwater system. Do not use them during periods of rain or when rain is forecast in the next 24 hours. Even biodegradable ones can cause harm to the environment.
- All waste products, such as dog hair or fur, nails, dirt and sediment associated with washing and grooming a pet should be disposed into general waste and not into the drains or gutters. Similarly solid waste from cleaning animal enclosures must be disposed into general waste.
Swimming pool filter backwash water and chemicals
Pool backwash water and pool chemicals must not go to the stormwater system.
Swimming pool water contains a range of pollutants including treatment products such as chlorine, salt and acid, as well as dirt particles (sediments), wind-blown materials (leaves and lawn cuttings), body oils, sunscreen residues and potentially harmful bacteria. In the normal operation of swimming pools, these materials are collected by the filtration system and contained in the filter. To work efficiently, swimming pool filters need to be cleaned to remove all the captured materials. In the case of cartridge filters the cartridge is usually hosed down to clean the filter material. In the case of sand type filters the filter requires backwashing to remove the captured materials.
- Under no circumstances should the waste water from cleaning a cartridge filter or swimming pool filter backwash water enter the stormwater system. Cartridge filters that are hosed down should be done into a soakage or garden area or the sewer system.
- Similarly, in areas connected to the sewerage system, backwash water from all swimming pools can be directed to a sewerage drainage point (new pools are subject to the necessary approvals). Alternatively, backwash water can be discharged to the garden or lawn as a source of irrigation. Salt-chlorinated pool water will require salt tolerant plant species, and it is advisable to occasionally water the area with clean, good quality water. Any resulting runoff should be contained within the property boundaries.
- In areas served by a community wastewater management scheme (CWMS), approval must be granted by the local council operating the CWMS before a permanent connection can be installed. Any backwash water is to bypass the septic tank and be discharged to the drain between the septic tank and the common effluent drain. Under no circumstances should backwash water be discharged into the septic tank. In unsewered regions, backwash water or cartridge washwater is to be discharged to a grassed, vegetated or garden area.
- Any surface runoff resulting from the discharge should be contained within the property boundaries and salt tolerant plants are recommended for saltwater chlorinators.
Car cleaning on lawn
Home improvements and the DIY handyperson
Soil, clay, gravel, sand, and waste water from paint, using or preparing mortar, concrete, plaster, cutting bricks and pavers, must not enter the stormwater system.
Discuss with your builder how they dispose of all their waste and wastewater to ensure this is done appropriately. If you are planning to undertake activities such as using mortar, concrete, plaster, cutting bricks and paver, or painting ensure no waste enters the stormwater system.
Set up an area away from public roads, and footpaths and any stormwater drainage where these activities can be undertaken. Ensure that there will be no runoff, and if needed set up temporary bunding.
Mixing mortar, concrete or plaster
- Mix over a lined area, on a spill-safe mat where the slurry or waste can be collected.
- When washing equipment, do so over a grassed area or collect all waste water in an area lined with plastic, allow the water to evaporate and dispose of the solid waste.
Cutting bricks or pavers
- Cutting should be undertaken on a permeable area such as grass so that any potential runoff is directed away from the stormwater drains.
- Where possible, use equipment that captures water used in the process and recycles it (e.g brikasaurus). Dispose surplus waste water into a contained area for drying and soakage. Dispose of any solid waste.
- When using a conventional diamond tip, attached a hessian or geotextile fabric bag to filter out the sediments. Direct or use the filtered waste water for watering the garden.
Wash equipment under a running tap with a bucket underneath to collect the wash water. Allow the bucket to stand until the solids have settled to the bottom. Gently pour off the liquid from the top, scrape out the paint solids onto newspaper, dry and dispose of them in the garbage bin. You can reuse the decanted wash water to clean other paint equipment, or dispose of it over your garden.
- Solvent-based paint washings can also be treated and reused by allowing the paint solids to settle and decanting the solvent off the top. You can reuse the decanted solvent to clean other equipment, but do not dispose of the liquid on the ground. This can cause soil and groundwater contamination.
- Collect any used solvent waste and take it to a licensed treatment facility, or contact your local council about a household hazardous materials collection service.
Stockpiles (eg sand or soil)
- Place all stockpiles on a flat, sheltered site away from the street, or any area that slopes away from any stormwater drains.
- To reduce rain and wind erosion, cover the material.
- Ensure all trailer loads of sand, soil and other materials are covered securely by a tarpaulin during transportation to reduce erosion by wind.
Soil excavation & site disturbance
Whenever soils are disturbed or excavated there is a very high risk of soil (sediment) moving off site with stormwater runoff. Sediment pollution in stormwater is a major cause of environmental degradation in receiving waters. Minimising erosion (the detachment of soil particles) and sediment control are considered essential whenever soils is disturbed. Erosion controls are aimed at preventing soil erosion in the first instance and sediment controls are aimed at capturing the soil particles once disturbed through soil erosion.
Discuss with your builder the processes they will undertake to ensure soil does not move from your property. If undertaking excavations yourself:
- Minimise soil erosion by avoiding soil disturbance and minimising the time and extent where soil is exposed to water and wind
- Controlling water movement into and around the areas where soil has been
- Stabilise all disturbed areas with vegetation or a material that will stop soil movement as quickly as possible
- Capture any soil on the site.
Further information on minimising harm from building activities can be found in:
- EPA 2010 Handbook for pollution avoidance on building sites, 2nd Edition
- KESAB Clean sites How to do it right
- International Erosion Control Association (Australasia) 2008 Best Practice Erosion and Sediment Control
- Catchments & Creeks 2012 Erosion and Sediment Control A Field Guide for Construction Managers, Version 5
- Catchments & Creeks 2013 Erosion and Sediment Control A Field Guide for Builders, Version 3
- Catchments & Creeks 2012 Principles of Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control, Version 1
- Managing Urban Stormwater: Soils and Construction, Volume 1, 4th Edition (the Blue Book)
Working with asbestos
Find information on the asbestos website including access to the guideline Asbestos – A guide for householders and the general public.
The EPA Guideline Wastes containing asbestos – removal, transport and disposal sets out the EPA’s minimum requirements for the management, safe handling and disposal of asbestos waste and asbestos-containing materials.
For further information on disposal of household waste see Zero Waste SA: recycling, reuse, sustainability and waste avoidance in South Australia.